So, I meant to warn you guys that I don’t generally keep up with things like journals or blogs and that posting often on this blog might not happen. My apologies. But, now is a good time for a post because today I realized, as I do when the end is nearing, that my time here in Brazil is very short. This Sunday I will be traveling to Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, with my group for three days to meet with the president of Brazil and representatives from the United Nations. After that trip our group will be spending about a week in Salvador for our excursion. There we will learn more about race in Brazil especially with regards to the Afro-Brazilian population. Since my independent study research is on race and education in the lives of Afro-Brazilians I will stay in Salvador for my research and return to Fortaleza and my host family in June. Since the program ends June 17th, I will only have about two weeks left with my family when I return. That fact hit me today and I went on a rant with my family about how sentimental I am, literally partially mental, and how I really didn’t want to leave them. I really hope I will find a way to return to Brazil after college maybe for more school, work, or volunteering opportunities. But for now since I’m feeling so very sentimental, I think it’s a good time for me to reflect on this trip so far and also give you an opportunity to hear how things have been.
The Knight Bus, Forro, The Brazilian Rocky Horror Picture Show
Those three words illustrate 3 memories I’m thinking about right now. I haven’t re-read my previous posts so I don’t remember if I told you guys about the Knight Bus. But, if you read Harry Potter then you know exactly what I am referring to. The Knight Bus pretty much sums up the transportation system here in Fortaleza. The buses are crazy, they speed through traffic, winding through cars and pedestrians crossing the street, and just when you think they are going too fast and are going to pass your stop they come to an abrupt halt, nearly jerking everyone on the bus. Yup, that’s pretty much every morning and afternoon for me as I commute back and forth from school and home. But, don’t get scared it’s really not as dangerous as it sounds, I’ve never heard of a bus getting into an accident here, but every time I am on one I also can’t help but laugh a little and think I’m finally living out the Harry Potter series and am really riding the Knight Bus.
Speaking of Harry Potter, I just bought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in Portuguese, titled Harry Potter e as Reliquias da Morte. And I found my favorite Harry Potter quote which in Portuguese is: “Claro que esta acontecendo em sua mente, Harry, mas por que isto significaria nao e real?” Translation: “Of course it is happening inside of your head, Harry, but why should that mean it is not real?” Anyway besides always enjoying another opportunity to re-read Harry Potter, I think this will be great practice for my Portuguese.
Forro is a type of music and dance that is really popular here in Ceara. It is a type of two-step dance, with lots of hips and spinning. A lot of pop music famous in the U.S. and Brazil are transformed into Forro songs, which can be really funny especially when you hear a re-make of a song from the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. Anyway, I’ve had a few opportunities to try it out and they all start out pretty awkward and embarrassing, but yesterday I had a dance partner who really enjoyed teaching me how to dance Forro. I twisted my ankle a few days ago and spent nearly an hour spinning, flipping, stepping on feet, laughing, apologizing, and in the end dancing Forro. I wish somebody took a video because I’ve never even seen myself dance so well.
This past week our group was divided into several smaller groups so that we could spend the week working with a different social organizations. It was probably one of the better weeks in Fortaleza, because unlike other SIT programs ours happens to spend a lot of time in the classroom. So it was really nice to get out and experience the real Brazil. I worked with an organization called Adelco that works on sustainable development and improving living conditions in the lives of an indigenous group called Tapebas. It was really amazing to learn more about indigenous communities in Brazil! Along with my two classmates, a student, Mariana, from the Federal University of Ceara (UFC) who studies film worked with us. After the week was over most of my classmates celebrated with our classmates from UFC at their dorm/house. Mariana and her other classmates had coincidentally finished a huge film project and were replaying the short clip for all of the friends who came that evening. Although I couldn’t really understand the Portuguese, it was obvious her film was sort of a Brazilian version and re-make of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was extremely impressive! Watch out for these students in the near future of social media!
Up next, race, the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (The Movement of Rural Landless Workers), Canoa Quebrada and Quixaba.
A well needed update:
This week and a half in Brasil has been filled with so many adventures, it really feels like it’s been months. So how do I relay everything that has happened in that time? Well, the first week (up until Friday) was orientation. There are 23 students (21 girls, and 2 guys – poor them) and we all lived at a church across the street from IBEU (Internacional Brasil-Estados Unidos) which is where SIT headquarters for this program are located. Besides normal orientation work, we also did a lot of exciting things. On one of the first nights a Capoeira group performed for us and their fire dance (which was pretty much them blowing fire from their mouths) was as hot and exhilarating as it sounds, even if it was just a dramatic display of testosterone.
We were also getting very, very anxious to visit the beautiful beaches of the Northeast and finally a few days later we were brought to one by surprise. I was overwhelmed, it was so beautiful! Miles and miles of perfectly blue water and warm sand; we walked less than a quarter of a mile down drinking coconut water before we reached a shopping and cultural center where we heard a lecture about women, gender, and sexuality (in Portuguese) the night before International Women’s Day.
On Friday we met our host families. I was extremely nervous because I still didn’t feel that confident in Portuguese. But the nerves came and went. I have a mom, Norma, a dad, Antonio, a sister Kenia, and a brother – who lives with his wife and son, an aunt who visits and helps out often, and a grandmother who lives a few blocks down the road. I brought them Victoria Secret’s lotions and body washes, incense from my mom, a Red Sox hat, Reeses, a Wellesley College cup, and glow sticks (if they had small kids – which they don’t). The VS products were a hit, I was told to bring them and my sister and mom loved them! My dad also wears hats normally, so that gift for him was perfect! Way to bring Boston and Wellesley to Brasil! On my first night we went out to my sister’s friend’s birthday party at an island-themed restaurant. It was a lot of fun and I even learned how to dance Foho!
On Saturday a man named Jose Albano took us on a day trip around Fortaleza. We visited a pierre on the beach, ate ice cream (I got crunchy peanut), visited a historical fish market, traveled to a high point in the city where you can see the entirety of Fortaleza, went back to his home and cooked lunch, and then went on an adventure to some sand dunes. Okay, two thing, his house was a sight to see in and of itself! It was amazing; he was inspired by architectural styles that he had seen in the U.S. I’m not exactly sure how to describe it, but it was hand built, had colorful glass bottles in the walls, a loft, open windows, and was sort of island-themed. (For Carly – it looks like your favorite building at Sirius). And the sand dunes were stunning! They were literally mountains of sand! We brought along about 5 young boys from Jose’s community and they were literally jumping from the top of 60 to 70 ft. mountains and landing somewhere in between the slope and the base (because the dunes are at an angle of course). I was terrified to try it, but after the first few jumps I was right along with them. We became friends (sort of), because their idea of friendship was teasing me and covering every inch of my body including my ears in sand. That took several baths to wash out!
On Sunday I went to the beach (Praia do Futuro) with my family and two other students’ families. We ate lunch there and then later I visited both friends’ houses and ate a common dessert here that is sort of similar to a quesadilla with a coconut shell, tapioca filling, and drizzled sweetened condensed milk on the outside. Delicious!
The next day our group did the standard SIT drop off, where they literally dropped us off at a bus station in pairs with an address and a mission. It was terrifying! We had to figure out how to get where we needed to go (our place was an hour away), get our own lunch, and make it back in a certain time limit. Even though I found myself scared again, it was a good activity (besides the obvious threats) in order to become familiar with the city, to become more confident, and learn more about the interesting sites we had to visit.
Our schedule is becoming more normal. We have Portuguese from 9-12 and then an evening class from 2 – 4. This weekend, however, we are going to visit Jeriquaquara! It was elected by the Washington Post as one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world! So excited!
More in tune to my academic interests here, I find myself constantly talking about race and its implications here in Brasil, even in Portuguese. As someone who is still at a very basic level with the language, it’s surprising that I choose the most difficult conversations to have. They’ve been interesting and informative though, and I can’t wait to learn more. I will likely do my independent study about that topic in Salvador, Brasil (the city has a very high population of Afro-Brasilians). More to come though, this post has been very long!
Beijos (kisses) <3
It has been a really really long journey here to Fortaleza! Over 24 hours of traveling and 3 connections. Now that I am sitting here at SIT’s base, I can’t help but feel all of the happiness I should have felt when I was so consumed by fear of language barriers and missing my loved ones. Better late than never.
Thinking about language though, I am amazed that in those 24 hours of traveling I was determined not to let my fear of failing to communicate stop me from learning how to communicate. Even from the flight from Boston there were many Portuguese speakers aboard and by the about the 5th hour into the flight to Rio I was responding and asking all of my questions, the best I could, in Portuguese. I’m really happy with this sudden change in confidence, because if I had confided in you before I went, you know that I was feeling really scared, overwhelmed, and under-confident in my Portuguese. Now I can laugh at my mistakes, grow from them, and enjoy all of the memories this amazing country will have for me,.
I’ve officially added one more funny story to my Portuguese screw-ups (the first being when I confused eyes - olhos - with eggs - ovos on my Portuguese oral exam): waking up to a flight attendant on the way to Fortaleza asking me what I wanted to drink and sleepily responding suco do loo, when I meant suco de laranja, him laughing and saying to me with a smile, orange juice?
Watching the cidade maravilhosa, Rio de Janeiro, form from the window of the plane, stepping into the warm humid heat of Fortaleza, and sitting in a shop drinking fresh Guarana juice with about 10 new friends and classmates dreaming of what these 4 months will hold for us.
Coming up: meeting my host family on Friday and classes starting tomorrow, watching the sun set on the beautiful praias of Fortaleza, and enjoying Brazilian life!
That’s the title of the program I am in through an organization called SIT. But what does that mean? It means not sitting down in a classroom and facing a professor who attempts to plant seeds of knowledge into your sleep deprived brain, but experiential learning! It means continuing the research I started in India: learning about race and education in the lives of people of the African Diaspora - comparing my own experiences as an African-American with Siddis (African Indians) and now Afro-Brazilians! It means a three week homestay experience where I will surely butcher the Portuguese language and add another international family to my growing family tree. It means exploring my roots as a Cape Verdean by learning Portuguese (and eventually traveling there after Brazil), connecting to another part of the world I want to become familiar with, and pushing my major of Peace and Justice studies (focus on Education) to new limits.
How much more will I grow?
4 continents’ 7 countries” (U.S., Jamaica, Bermuda, Australia, Canada, Ghana, and India)
5 Wellesley semester pounds
Can’t wait to share this growing experience and to have you along on the journey!